Apple Releases iBeacon Specification

iBeacon-MFi-portal

Apple has quietly rolled out its iBeacon specification as it starts to certify devices that carry the Bluetooth LE standard.

Under their MFI program, manufacturers can now request that Apple permit them to attach the iBeacon name to their devices so long as they meet certain criteria.

The specifications are available after signing an NDA. Applying to the program in order to register to carry the iBeacon name, we’re told, is free.

While we haven’t seen the specification (and wouldn’t be able to say anything if we had!) we’re told that there are no surprises: it conforms to what you’d generally expect of any device that broadcasts a Bluetooth LE signal.

iBeacon Means, Mostly, Trademark Control

The move means that the iBeacon trademark, which has ended up being applied by the media to a whole slew of devices that act as beacons, will now be used with a bit more control from Cupertino.

As we’ve noted elsewhere, beacons that carry the iBeacon name are conforming to two things:

  • They broadcast Bluetooth LE ‘signals’ in a way that conforms to the Apple standard for what those signals should contain
  • They have use of the iBeacon trademark

But there’s no particular restriction in place which makes an iBeacon incompatible with Android or other phones. So while a beacon might carry the iBeacon name, this simple means that it has access to the trademark and that it has been configured to work well with Apple devices.

iBeacon Everywhere

The iBeacon trademark filing by Apple covers a wider range of uses and scenarios including mobile payments, advertising, retail services, trade shows and other scenarios.

At BEEKn, we group the software, APIs, on-device services, SDKs and APIs as part of the larger meaning of the term iBeacon. The device that you put on the wall (or the fact that your phone can be a beacon) are just one part of the larger requirements for building an ‘iBeacon experience’.

So while for now the trademark iBeacon is going to be applied to specific devices that have been certified under the Apple MFI program, we see it being used more broadly as Apple continues to enhance what’s possible in proximity-based experiences.

With the specification now released for companies who have signed the NDA and who have applied to use the iBeacon trademark on their devices, we at least know that there’s no surprise in how they define the use of the Bluetooth LE standard – and that the latest Apple brand will be affixed soon to a beacon near you.

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18 Responses to “Apple Releases iBeacon Specification”

  1. Question– does this specification includes the feature of announcing but not fixing crippling authentication-related security holes?

    Reply
  2. Wanted to reach out and send a quick note on GLIIF. GLIIF with iBeacon is the best possible solution for a superior retail experience.

    GLIIF is a technology that empowers brands, builds brand networks and opens direct communications with customers at the mobile level.

    We are in BETA and are actively seeking strategic partners and agencies to work with. You can get more information here. http://gliif.com/#business

    From publications, packaging, in store displays we brand interactivity into every piece with a sophisticated tech. solution and provide a savvy solution for the mobile user.
    Every scan adds to a brand concentric network for push and in-app messaging for an open line of communication. Basically a hyper-targetted database is established with our solution.

    Reply
    • Andy Fuchs

      You should definitely pimp your website a bit… it takes forever to load a page…

      Reply
  3. Curious – thanks for the comment. Not sure what you mean by authentication-related security holes? On the device or the beacon? Beacon spoofing or beacon hijacking? In public or private mode?

    The great thing about Bluetooth LE is you can ‘bake’ whatever security layers are appropriate around the core specification. iBeacon follows the specification and is otherwise just a trademark.

    On the iOS side of the equation, Apple has done more to ‘lock down’ beacons than Android (which allows you to detect beacons that aren’t your own) but even there you need to design solutions appropriate to your security needs.

    So….I guess it depends what you mean?

    Reply
    • He was referring to Apple’s recent release of OS X 10.9.2, which fixed a security flaw that was discovered last Friday.

      Reply
  4. This is good news, however I don’t expect any changes from the model we reversed engineer already. I am referring here to several sources describing it more less the same. You can get beta units from us, and you can also test the full ecosystem with passbook working at our web site

    Reply
  5. Agree Virterm. The “spec” is more directly tied to trademark use than actual ‘changes’ to the Bluetooth LE spec itself.

    And yes Chris – agree :)

    Reply
  6. I have just enrolled iBeacons program and there is still a $151 charge for credit verification although it is not too much and is carried out by third party instead of Apple itself. We are very glad that Apple finally published the specification of iBeacons and it is definitely one important direction for us. We will soon add iBeacons functions to our existing products.

    Reply
  7. Tom/Doug:

    Do you have to register even if you’re buying beacons (maybe iBeacons) from someone like Estimote and building an iOS app using these beacons?

    Reply

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